The Loyola Marymount University choruses sang six engagements in four Italian cities in June, culminating with a private concert in the Sistine Chapel and a public Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica.
Led by Mary Breden, director of choral activities and chair of the Department of Music, the 100 members of the LMU choruses – the Consort Singers, Women’s Chorus and Concert Choir – performed free concerts for the public in Lucca, Florence and Venice, where they also sang at a Mass in St. Mark’s Basilica.
The private concert in the Sistine Chapel took place the evening of June 19. Earlier that day, the choruses performed in St. Peter’s along with singers from St. Ignatius High School in San Francisco, Monte Vista Choir and a group from the Sydney (Australia) Festival Chorus. After dinner, the LMU singers, parents and guests returned to the Vatican Museums, which had closed for the day. The group was escorted to the Sistine Chapel, where they were alone with the Michelangelo fresco. The sun was just setting, the moon was rising; and then they sang.
“It was a huge honor to sing at a Mass in St. Peter’s and the private concert in the Sistine Chapel,” said Rachel Van Houten ’03, who has been a member of the choir for 10 years and graduated with a degree in art history. “It was the most perfect way for me to experience all that amazing art and to perform music in this historic setting, at the same time. It was amazing. For me, it was unforgettable; the experience of a lifetime.”
The concerts were part of a nine-day tour (from June 12 to 21) that included climbing the tower of Pisa, touring the Doge’s Palace and Bridge of Sighs in Venice, and a trip to the Accademia museum in Florence to see Michelangelo’s David. In each city, there were choral rehearsals and a public performance. The choruses sang in a number of historic churches, including the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari in Venice where composer Claudio Monteverdi was buried in 1643, as well as Santa Maria Sopra Minerva, the only Gothic cathedral in Rome.
The LMU Concert Choir includes students, staff and alumni; the other choirs are comprised of students. They were accompanied by pianist Peter Hutchings, who works with the choruses at LMU.
Barbara Busse, dean of the College of Communication and Fine Arts, who was on the tour, called it a unique educational moment for the students. “This was not just the experience of singing in another location,” said Busse. “These were special acoustical environments, as well as sacred places, that were created to give the voice its most sublime realization.”
“In every way, this gives the students the opportunity to learn about the power of the music that they have created,” she said of the student tour and singing before large, appreciative audiences.